Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, is considered one of the greatest elected officials in our nation’s history, and one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known. He was a tsunami of energy—one who never saw a mountain too tall to scale or a battle too threatening to join. He shook the nation, invented the modern presidency, and left a changed country in his wake. There is a reason why his face, along with Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln’s, is chiseled on Mount Rushmore.
Roosevelt, reflecting on the burden of leadership and the willingness to risk all and attempt great things, famously observed:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Every time I read Roosevelt’s quote, my mind darts to the pastorate and to the fine work that men of God do. The office of the pastorate is a high one, the work a noble one, and the men who faithfully undertake it are worthy of our admiration. Pastors are in the arena, putting their life on the line. My challenge to them is to stay faithful. My challenge to church members is to encourage your pastor to do the same.
So, pastor, I want to encourage you about who you are in Christ, the stewardship he has entrusted to you, and the uniqueness of your ministry.
First, you are called by God. Christ has given the church, in our age, “Evangelists, pastors, and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” One does not stroll into the ministry; one surrenders to it, receiving it as a weighty gift and calling. Pastors are those who have been set apart by God, called by His Spirit, and who have submitted their lives to Him. This requires obedience not only to enter the ministry but to continue in it. So celebrate the calling, and in your submission to it, stay faithful.
Second, you are a minister of the Word. Your one irreducible responsibility is to feed the sheep the Word of God. Paul stipulates that the pastor “must be able to teach,” and he charged Timothy to “give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching” and to “preach the Word.” The pastor who faithfully discharges this responsibility does more than explain the Bible, he feeds the church—eternal souls—the bread of the eternal Word. Every Christian needs a steady intake of God’s Word, and a faithful pastor, who rightly divides the Word weekly, is worthy of high praise. In your ability to handle the Word, stay faithful.
Third, you are held to a higher level of accountability. The task of preaching and the responsibility of spiritual leadership bring a higher level of accountability upon you. It begins with the qualifications of the office, as outlined in I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9, but it extends to other passages as well, including “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment,” and that congregations should, “Obey their leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account.” This fact is all the more daunting when you realize that pastors face more intense temptation. Satan targets those whose fall will do the most damage to the church and most sully God’s glory. Live sober, Spirit-led lives. In your fitness for ministry, stay faithful.
Fourth, you confront more intense temptation. Peter tells us that Satan roams about as a roaring lion seeking those whom he may devour, and there is no one he enjoys devouring more than a Christian minister—especially an erstwhile faithful one. When he does, he not only ruins a pastor and his ministry, he also destroys a family, disrupts a church, and discredits God’s glory in that community. There simply is no sin like the sin of a clergyman, and there is no one Satan desires to bring down more than those whom God is using most fruitfully. Guard your heart. In your battle against temptation, stay faithful.
Fifth, you face unique pressures. There are days pastors carry the weight of the world, and for reasons of confidentiality, all they can do is bottle it up. Whether it is a piercing word of criticism, a church member’s scandalous sin, a draining counseling session, a rigorous day of sermon preparation, or just the operational challenges of most congregations, all of these burdens—and more—can mount up to make the strains of ministry seem at times nearly unbearable. In these times, stay firmly grounded in Christ and seek your strength in His faithfulness. In your dependence on God, stay faithful.
Sixth, you tend the flock of God. Pastors are more than a shoulder to cry on, and they offer more than consolation during life’s trials. They preach, lead, and fulfill a host of other responsibilities, but pastors are men who are willing to bear their congregants’ burdens of heart. When church members need prayer, counsel, or support, pastors stand in the gap for them. They bear these burdens with their flocks. Paul spoke of his affection and parental care of the believers in Thessalonica, and Peter exhorted the elders to shepherd the flock with eagerness, not lording it over them. Such is the heart of a pastor, one who loves his congregation. This is no easy task. Church members can be wayward, stubborn, and even rebellious. Thus, the pastor who loves and serves the flock is worthy of admiration. In your care for the sheep, stay faithful.
Pastor, this is you. This is your calling, your work, and your reward. As you honor God and strengthen his church, one day you will hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” So, stay faithful.
 Roosevelt, Theodore, and Brian M. Thomsen. The Man in the Arena: The Selected Writings of Theodore Roosevelt: a Reader. New York: Forge, 2003, 5.
 Ephesians 4:11-12.
 I Timothy 3:2, 4:13; II Timothy 4:2.
 James 3:1, Hebrews 13:17.
 I Peter 1:8.
*This article was originally published on September 13, 2017